In a few days, I will be face down on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean sucking sand through my nostrils while it adheres to the drool coming from my open mouth. And this scene won’t be because I had one too many Bahama Mamas at the pool bar, no ma’am. It’s because I packed for my family to get here.
Every. Last. Thing. Packed for me and four kids.
Naturally, my husband will throw a few shorts and a hat in a bag the morning we leave and call it packing. What he doesn’t know is that packing causes purging, and purchasing and a piercing pain in the right frontal lobe. Packing with children is the purgatory you must endure before proving yourself worthy and then punching through to the Paradise-like vacation on the other side.
It’s the punishment of having children at all. See that young couple down the beach under their umbrellas? They packed in under 30 minutes. High five. Only needed a couple bathing suits and a pair of shorts. Meanwhile you, mother, had to pack hair ties and goggles and Band-Aids and chargers for all the electronic devices in addition to every last article of clothing and shoe and hat and sunscreen needed for the trip.
Sounds like you need a vacation.
Let’s start with purging. About a month ago, I began asking my kids what they needed for the trip. More flip-flops? A book? I was being hopeful, or naïve, or completely detached from reality because what they needed was, of course, everything. These four candy-popping, lead-pencil-chewing, forget-to-
cover-their-mouths-when-they-sneeze children o’ mine decided to grow in world-record ways since last summer. Meaning nothing fits. Nothing. I spent one weekend gutting their closets alone, which resulted in lots of trying on clothes and rolling eyes and big black bags filled with castoffs to be given to the cousins. That is stage one. And it is so exhausting it made me want to give up right there. Cue the mental beach scene and some reggae music to keep me going.
Next, it was time to purchase the essentials to make it through a vacation that not only involves beach and boat days but also includes a few fancy dining experiences where the girls wear dresses and the boys wear button-downs and khakis. Plus shoes. No one wants to shop with Mom, and Mom wants to shop with no one. Mom wants to shop without wearing pants while perusing Amazon Prime from the privacy of her own home. But, alas, some garments need to be tried on. I had more than one dressing-room dress-down for a wayward child who continued to pretend to try things on, say they fit when (all the while) he was just making exasperated faces at himself in the mirror. I can see through the crack in the dressing-room drapes, my darling. It’s about to go down.
When is the perfect time to actually pack their bags? That’s a tricky thing. Early enough to set aside the clothes that are making the trip, but not so early that the kids need to dip back into the bag again and again to get clothes to wear for the present. That’s what
I’m dealing with now. Four kids with packed bags have been grabbing their favorite T-shirts from those bags then casting them dirty onto my laundry room floor. Cue the beach scene, hum a hymn favored by your grandmother, get down on your knees next to the washer and pray through the pain. We shall overcome.
Southwest Airlines offers a special rate for the casual traveler: Wanna Get Away. Yes, please. I’ll raise a slow hand up on that one. I want to get away. Party of one. I won’t bring more than a carry-on, I promise. And I’ll even take the center seat, I’m used to it. I’m a mom. I’m the epitome of self-sacrifice, and angst, and love and frustration all wrapped up in a Miraclesuit tankini, lathered in sunscreen with a trace of faded lipstick.
All moms ultimately need a vacation from the vacation. But this never happens because it takes days to find the laundry room floor after everyone has dumped their bags of damp suits and sand-filled shorts. It’s a reminder of the meticulous packing that took place only a week before.
But it’s worth it. Everyone is actually wearing clothes you packed in the vacation photos. Wanna get away, but can’t get away alone? Join the club. I’ll think I’ll take that Bahama Mama, after all.